Everyone who was old enough to comprehend it remembers 9/11. You can’t not remember it. Such a momentous event in our country’s history would be impossible to forget, even if assholes everywhere weren’t visually forcing us to remember by commercializing the event and memorializing it forever in such dignified mediums as buttons, t-shirts, and that all-American favorite, the bumper sticker.
I’m certainly not trying to say that it wasn’t a tragedy. An attack on that scale hadn’t been seen on our own soil since before we entered WWII, and at that time it was an event that pretty much made it impossible for our country to remain on the outskirts of battle. So it’s no surprise that the events that unfolded ten years ago today really made an impact on our country and the rest of the world, as well.
What bothers me about the whole 9/11 thing, quite apart from the merchandising, is that this is the only time we make it a point to remember. And we have quite the selective memory, at that. Perhaps it’s a kind of post-traumatic amnesia, or a coping mechanism that helps us justify the shitstorm we’ve gotten ourselves into since that fateful morning, but whatever the case, the fact is that we don’t remember a lot of really important things.
First, there are the casualties that have occurred in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. In the attacks, a total of 2,977 victims were confirmed dead. Add to that the firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who bravely gave their lives, and the total comes to 3,388.
Since the start of the so-called “War on Terror,” we have lost 4,792 troops in Iraq and 2,691 in Afghanistan. That brings the total casualties on our end to 7,483 just in those countries alone—more than twice the number of victims and first responders killed in the initial attack. Military and civilian deaths in general since 9/11 are estimated to top 8,800. This isn’t even counting the non-death casualties. Wounded US soldiers and civilians number nearly 46,000 since 2001.
Then there are the casualties that many Americans don’t think about: the innocent civilians killed in indiscriminate attacks in Middle Eastern countries, which number well into the hundreds of thousands and may top 1,000,000 before the fighting ends. And at this point, I’m questioning whether it ever will.
And then there are the non-physical casualties. Countless Americans—citizens by birth or by law who love their country just as much as you or I—have been persecuted since 9/11 because their skin was just a little too brown. Since when do we have the right to deem a whole country, a whole race, or a whole religion evil? Since when is it okay to humiliate or hurt someone based on the color of their skin or the garments they wear on their head or the religious texts they choose to read? And at least half of the time, people are way off the mark, anyway. I have friends who are Indian, Mexican, and even of Spanish descent who have been called horrible names and even physically assaulted because of American ignorance and intolerance. Had they been Muslims from Afghanistan or Iraq, the things that were said and done to them would be no less wrong or detestable, but we let our hate blind us to the point that those things don’t even seem to matter anymore. We just want someone to blame, and anyone different enough from who we perceive to be a “real American” is fine for that purpose.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the monetary cost of all this fighting. Freedom isn’t free, as people are so quick to remind us, and this particular war has a hefty price tag: from 2001 through fiscal year 2011, the cost is a whopping $1.283 trillion, spent on military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care. Anyone who claims to want to reign in our spending and doesn’t bother to consider the astronomical military expense associated with the “War on Terror” in their calculations clearly isn’t really all that serious about lowering our deficit.
I won’t even get into the cost to our civil liberties associated with such blatant invasions of privacy as the so-called “Patriot Act” and other unconstitutional nonsense. As Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
The bottom line is, I won’t ever forget what happened on September 11th, 2001. Nor will I forget what happened afterward, and the men, women, and children who have died and will continue to die as a result. I don’t need your jingoism or your bumper stickers to remind me once a year to be a patriot, because I love my country every minute of every day, even if I don’t always love what we do.
This isn’t Christina the Pacifist talking, or Christina the Liberal, or Christina the Whatever-Other-Label-You-Feel-Like-Assigning-To-My-Beliefs. This is Christina the American speaking, and you better believe I remember.
I remember all of it. Do you?